New Wrigleyville Billy Goat Tavern promises cheezborgers but no Cubs curse

The newest location of the legendary Billy Goat Tavern is coming to Wrigleyville by the end of this month, according to co-owner Bill Sianis. The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce announced the opening in February and Block Club Chicago initially reported the updated timing.

While there isn’t a finalized date, Sianis told the Tribune that they’re doing “final touches” at the new location at 3724-26 N. Clark, northwest of Wrigley Field. The site was previously occupied by Full Shilling Public House, which closed after 20 years this past fall.

The legendary “cheezborger” bar and grill was founded in 1934 and has eight other locations, some of which can be found in food courts or at airports. The Wrigleyville location will be the fifth operational stand-alone location and the second attempt at a tavern in the area. A previous Billy Goat location in Wrigleyville shuttered in the 2000s.

“As a site for business, it was a good site,” Bill Sianis said. “We always wanted to … come back to the Wrigley area and help the Cubs.”

Sianis insisted that the legendary Billy Goat is opening near the Cubs for good luck and to offer assistance to their favored team, not to deepen the curse.

“We’ll hopefully bring the two sides together by being here,” Sianis said.

The Billy Goat’s legend dates back to owner William Sianis’ purchasing of Lincoln Tavern, across from Chicago Stadium, which was replaced by the United Center in 1994. It was there that he found a goat had wandered into his bar after stumbling off a truck bed, and adopted it. Sianis aptly renamed the bar in its honor, after its appearance supposedly led to a boost in business.

Over time Sianis grew more attached to his goat, bringing it with him to public events. He even grew his beard to match its whiskers and refused to shave his facial hair before the goat’s fifth birthday, according to Tribune archives. This earned him the nickname “Billy Goat.”

For more than 70 years, the Chicago Cubs were supposedly plagued by the “Billy Goat Curse.” In 1945, Sianis attempted to bring Murphy, his pet goat, into the box seat section at Wrigley Field during a World Series game between the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers. According to the legend, staff denied the goat entry because of its stench, leading an upset Sianis to exclaim that the Cubs would no longer win.

“My great uncle took the goat to the stadium as a good luck charm,” Sianis explained. “We’ve always looked at the goat as a good luck thing for us and for Chicago … the curse came after the goat was rejected.”

The goat became a fixture throughout the decades. The curse was finally broken in 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

And the goat stands ready to become a good luck charm.

“If the Cubs need our help with the goat, we’ll be right there,” Sianis said. Fans now have “cheezborgers” within walking distance of ballgames.

The Billy Goat has other sources of fame. In the ‘70s, comedians such as Bill Murray, John Belushi and Don Novello were fans, as were numerous Tribune and Sun-Times journalists such as Dave Condon, Rick Kogan and Pultizer Prize winner Mike Royko.

“It was maybe kind of a neutral spot,” Sianis said. “Where both sides could come and have a drink and discuss.”

Waiting for games, sportswriters and journalists from many local papers could meet their peers at the Billy Goat.

“I remember Friday nights, Thursday nights, in the evening as soon as people would get off work, the journalists, they would all come down, have drinks, discuss about the issues and different things,” he said. “It was a big hangout spot.”

The comedians made their mark too: A 1978 “Saturday Night Live” sketch featured a cafe inspired by the tavern that served chips, Pepsi and “cheezborgers.”

Describing the inspiration for the sketch, Sianis explained how family members and other Greek-origin employees would take orders.

“It sounded like you were getting yelled at but they were just telling you what you were ordering,” Sianis said. “After that (SNL sketch), people would come in to see my dad and the other cooks yell out the orders.”

Like other locations, there will be clippings, articles and pictures memorializing that history on the walls at the new Wrigleyville location, alongside the usual menu of “cheezborgers” and all the rest.

“Through generations, people still come in and want to see (Billy Goat Tavern) for many things,” Sianis said. “For ‘Saturday Night Live,’ for journalists, for the curse.”

Chicago Tribune’s Lauryn Azu contributed.

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